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How GPS navigation system work on your gadget?

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Tinuku ~ Formerly sailors navigated based on natural signs such as the positions of stars in sky, while maps must be read manually. It also does not specify where the current position is. In the digital age, the Global Positioning System or GPS makes the navigation process much easier. Live gadget users determine location instantly and accurately.

Tinuku How GPS navigation system work on your gadget

GPS capability in determining the location is widely applied in various things such as navigation software, sports, ride-sharing, games with augmented reality and others. Advanced GPS technology based on satellite constellation helps the gadget in determining the position on earth.

Military innovation

The origin of GPS navigation systems began in the early days of satellite launch into earth orbit. Scientists then tracked satellite positions by observing radio signal shifts or doppler effects from earth.

In the mid 60's, the US military began conducting navigation experiments using satellites to track the movement of nuclear submarines. The experiment was success and the US Department of Defense began launching a GPS satellite called Navstar or Navigation System with Timing and Ranging.

GPS initially only be used by US military. However, the policy changed after the incident of a Korean Airlines plane that was shot down due to stray into the Soviet Union's ban territory in 1983.

US President Ronald Reagan then opens public access to GPS navigation system to facilitate navigation for the common good. In December 1993, the GPS navigation system was ready to operate in full with constellation of 24 satellites in earth's orbit.

How GPS works?

The GPS system consists of three parts: satellite in space, control station on earth and receiver or satellite signal receiving device in the hands of user, such as a smartphone or a smartwatch. How GPS navigation system work on your gadget (2)

GPS satellites orbit the earth twice a day. When orbiting each emits unique signals and orbital parameters for receivers on earth. The receiver tool calculates the distance by measuring the time it takes to receive signals from each satellite.

This distance information is then used to determine the position of the receiver on earth through the trilateration technique. The cross point between three radios of the nearest GPS satellites and the three spacings meet to indicate the receiver's position.

To locate and track two dimensional movements in this case longitude and latitude, the receiver requires signals from three satellites. With four or more satellites, three-dimensional position tracking can be done as longitude, latitude, and altitude.

GPS satellites are in a constellation covering the entire earth surface. Therefore, at any location on the planet, the receiver always "sees" and gets signals from at least four satellites in sky. After getting location information, the receiver also calculates things like speed, bearing, distance to destination, and others.

GPS usually accurately tracks the receiver's position up to a radius of 10 meters or less. However, there are several factors affecting accuracy such as environments with tall buildings or trees that block the reception of satellite signals.


A-GPS or Assisted GPS is a technique for speeding up the initial location or Time To First Fix (TTFF) on a smartphone by utilizing a mobile network. Usually the Base Transciever Station or BTS for mobile tower also features GPS receiver and continuously updates information and calculates location data.

The ready-made location data from the BTS is then forwarded to mobile phone when requested. The device instantly recognizes position and shortens initial locking process. A-GPS saves time and battery usage, but usage depends on mobile network availability.

If there is no network, the smartphone will use GPS navigation in standalone or without A-GPS support as it can work anytime even if it does not get mobile cell signal. GPS functionality is also independent of mobile network availability. How GPS navigation system work on your gadget

A-GPS only accelerates the initial locking on. Smartphone users who download offline folders, such as Google Maps allow viewing even though there is no mobile signal.

GLONASS, GPS, Galileo and BeiDou

In addition to GPS, today's gadgets usually also support location determination via GLONASS or Globalnaya Navigatsionnaya Sputnikivaya Sistema is a navigation satellite system developed by Russia in 1976.

The constellation of GLONASS satellites was launched in 1995, but the capacity had declined due to abandonment by the end of decade. Russia then restored GLONASS so it will be fully operational again in 2011.

GLONASS uses a constellation of 24 satellites or fewer than GPS that uses an active 30 satellite constellation, but the accuracy of both is relatively equal. GPS and GLONASS signals can be combined by receiver so the total satellite navigation becomes more than 50 satellites to increase coverage.

The EU also developed a civilian-operated navigation satellite system called Galileo. China is also building a similar system called BeiDou which is still in construction stage and newly operated over parts of Asia.


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